Published in PC Hardware

Broadwell coming this year is a slimmed down version

by on26 May 2014

The real thing comes later

Sources close to the matter are telling us that the Broadwell chip that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich promised to ship before the holiday season might not be the real McCoy. As you can imagine chip development takes a lot of time and effort and shrinking the Haswell architecture from 22nm and turning it into Broadwell at 14nm is not as easy as it sounds.

14nm is hard to make

Let me remind you that Nvidia pushed Pascal and Parker FinFET chips beyond 2015 indicating that its long term partner TSMC is late with its 16nm manufacturing process where you can safely do FinFET transistors. 

Intel is traditionally faster to transition to a new process thnn GlobalFoundries or TSMC. Intel has been manufacturing 22nm chips for a while and has committed to shipping Broadwell in time for the 2014 holiday season, but not in time for the back-to-school shopping spree.

The original Broadwell design that got pushed back had to be slimmed down in order to get better yields. This is what we heard from our sources. The chip will without a doubt end up better than all Haswell chips that you can buy today in the mobile space, but Intel had more ambitious plans that could not realise in time.

Skylake might come later

After Broadwell the next ‘tock’ is called Skylake. Skylake was originally supposed to come in 2015 and should be based on a new architecture, but with the Broadwell delay Intel might postpone the follow-on chip, too.

AMD is catching up with its Kaveri chips, but it doesn’t put nearly as much a pressure on Intel as it used to. AMD is on the right track and it might take back a slice of the mobile market from Intel as it can offer comparable performance and battery life at a lower price.

Intel is facing many other competitors that have embraced ARM architecture and Intel now practically competes with some of its huge customers. Apple and Samsung are both competitors and customers. Both companies have their in-house SoC designs and at the same time they buy Intel's technology for their non-mobile product portfolio.

Cherry Trail Atom 14nm

If the GlobalFoundries - Samsung alliance and TSMC get their act together they might be ready to produce at the same node as Intel, which might put enormous pressure on them. Intel now knows that whatever the competition is doing they are at least one node behind. However, this may change. If the GlobalFoundries alliance with Samsung, or TSMC for that matter, manage to ship 20nm chips in 2015, they will be much closer to catching up with Intel than ever before.

At the same time, Intel is getting better with Atom chips and Cherry Trail Atom 14nm might be also coming in late 2014 and can put some additional pressure on the tablet market, currently dominated by ARM SoCs. 

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